Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Feeling bossy?

The Ban Bossy campaign exploded onto the internet this past week and has been spreading like wildfire.  As a teacher, I'm intrigued.  Can't say I disagree.  Can't quite say I am completely all in.  But it has me thinking.  Kudos to them.

I like that line- I'm not bossy.  I'm the boss.

But if you're the boss, doesn't that make you a little... boss-y?

I thought I'd join the conversation with a teacher's perspective.  Not all teachers' perspectives.  Just a teacher's.  My opinion and thought process.

First, it reminded me instantly of this ad from Pantene last year:

I recall this ad causing a few waves as well.  And I remember watching it and thinking it was great.  I'm all about giving girls (and boys!) the tools to be solid leaders and the confidence to succeed.  

Of course the creators of the "bossy ban" see the irony in telling people what words to stop using.  It is, in itself, a little bossy. 

I'm going to be honest; I can only think of two cases in eight years of teaching that being "bossy" has come up, and one I can barely count because it was more of a misunderstanding than actual bossiness.  I don't see this as a huge issue in fourth grade.  Maybe others do.  I also don't ever recall being called bossy, and I like to think I have some strong leadership qualities.  

Bossy vs. Leader
Bossy in grade school- maybe middle school- seems to be when someone (likely a girl, yes) is telling someone else what to do without their desire for direction.  

I don't want to ban bossy.  I want you to be a leader.  There is a difference between leading in the classroom and being bossy in the classroom (or workplace, or society in general).  If there is a bossy student, then I feel they need to be taught how to approach giving direction or guidance without plowing over other students' ideas, feelings, and willingness to participate.  I don't want to squash their ability- I want to polish their bossiness to be a superpower.  Sometimes good leadership takes a dose of bossiness.  

I believe that every workplace has the potential to have a "bossy" boss or a good leader.  I would imagine that most people prefer the leader.  Being bossy doesn't make you a good leader.  You need to refine those skills.  That needs to happen in school.

I don't think "banning" the word is going to help.  Bossy has it's place.  Sometimes people are bossy.  Sometimes students are bossy.  Heck, sometimes I'm bossy.  We just need to know the difference and how to approach the issue at hand.

An Earned Respect
That being said, you should earn the title of "boss".  Being a good "boss" or "leader" is an position that is earned based on prior effort, time, and proof of ability to lead other people.  I would have a hard time as a student if someone else came up and just started telling me what to do.  You have to earn my respect in order for me to respect your ability to be bossy toward me.  If I think you're being bossy, it's probably because I feel that I know just as much, if not more, about what you are trying to tell me, or you aren't in a position to be telling me what to do.  You can't just decide you are in charge and start ordering people around.  I will call you Bossy.

Oftentimes, I think students are told they are bossy by other students because they are feeling that the "bossy" student doesn't have the position to be boss-ing.  

As teachers, I think that comes in assigning leadership roles at younger ages.  Giving students roles to perform or jobs to complete as part of the group gives them an opportunity to be the leader, as well as an opportunity to be a listener.  And being a listener is an important part of being a leader as well.  

I see a connection with the word "bossy" and "leader" in the same way I see a connection between "tattling" and "reporting an incident".  One is seen as an unnecessary and often annoying trait, and one is seen as helpful and informative.  But in school, we teach the difference.  We have to show students how to strategically use this ability to be successful. 

So What?
Finally, what about those people who are calling people bossy?  What about those students who are telling other kids they are being bossy?  Are we giving this one word that much power?

So you're being bossy?  So what?  Own it and learn to be a leader.  Maybe (gasp) reflect back and figure out when it's necessary to tell others what to do, and when it isn't your place.  

You think someone else is being bossy?  What are you going to do about it?  We need to teach students how to have interactions with other students who might be telling them what to do.  Is calling them bossy helping?  Probably not.

Bossy is a thing.  We can't just stop using it and hope it goes away.  We need to teach the difference and educate strong leaders.  That's our job as teachers.  

You can click below to learn more about the Ban Bossy campaign.

Thoughts?  Is this an issue in your classroom/school?  Were you (are you?) called bossy?  

Happy Teaching!

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